The Right to Food in Haiti

A Haitian enumerator administers the food security survey across from a food aid depot in Hinche, Haiti.

At a time when resource issues such as the right to housing and water have been gaining more urgency globally, the Center’s innovative multidisciplinary approach has not only produced scholarship and critique, but actually facilitated tangible change on the ground.

In 2009, inspired by the success of the Right to Water project and report, the Center and its Global Justice Clinic, along with partners—Partners In Health, The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Zanmi Lasante—embarked on a multidisciplinary study on the right to food in Haiti’s Plateau Central, a region that has been particularly affected by violations of the right to food in recent years. This project sought to identify the challenges to such violations and suggest solutions aimed at achieving the right to food in Haiti. The project also aimed to contribute to tangible solutions to the food crisis at the international and national levels. Because many Haitians depend on food aid-particularly in the Central Plateau region-this project focused directly on the provision of such aid and concrete recommendations for making such aid more effective by calling for significant reforms in the delivery and goals of this aid. Although the right to food project was launched shortly before the devastating earthquake of January 2012, the results and recommendations became all the more urgent in the wake of that catastrophe, given the alarming rise in food scarcity and over-reliance on external aid brought in by the crisis.

Like the right to water project that preceded it, the right to food project employed empirical human rights research—in the form of a survey of 150 individuals and targeted focus group discussions conducted in the town of Hinche during the summer of 2009—to measure violations of the right to food in the region and to assess how international food assistance programs do or do not help fulfill people’s right to food.

This methodology was complemented by innovative research on food security and food assistance, all of which was eventually released in an analysis and series of recommendations in Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of U.S. Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti. The groups hoped that accurately measuring the rights at issue and advocating for change based on the community’s own experience would offer powerful means for translating human rights-based recommendations about food assistance into tangible legislative and policy changes.